You can often treat the flu without seeing a GP and should begin to feel better in about a week.


    Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include:

    • a sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above
    • an aching body
    • feeling tired or exhausted
    • a dry cough
    • a sore throat
    • a headache
    • difficulty sleeping
    • loss of appetite
    • diarrhoea or tummy pain
    • feeling sick and being sick

    The symptoms are similar for children, but they can also get pain in their ear and appear less active.

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    Telling the difference between cold and flu

    Cold and flu symptoms are similar, but flu tends to be more severe.

    Flu Cold
    Appears quickly within a few hours Appears gradually
    Affects more than just your nose and throat Affects mainly your nose and throat
    Makes you feel exhausted and too unwell to carry on as normal Makes you feel unwell, but you're OK to carry on as normal (for example, go to work)

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    Things you can try

    To help you get better more quickly:

    • rest and sleep
    • keep warm
    • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains
    • drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your pee should be light yellow or clear)

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    How a pharmacist can help

    A pharmacist can give treatment advice and recommend flu remedies.

    Be careful not to use flu remedies if you're taking paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets as it's easy to take more than the recommended dose.

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    GPs do not recommend antibiotics for flu because they will not relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery.

    Call 999 or go to A&E if you:

    • develop sudden chest pain
    • have difficulty breathing
    • start coughing up blood

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    How to avoid spreading the flu

    Flu is very infectious and easily spread to other people. You're more likely to give it to others in the first 5 days.

    Flu is spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.

    To reduce the risk of spreading flu:

    • wash your hands often with warm water and soap
    • use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
    • bin used tissues as quickly as possible

    See how to wash your hands correctly

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    The flu vaccine reduces the risk of catching flu, as well as spreading it to others.

    It's more effective to get the vaccine before the start of the flu season (December to March).

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